George J. Hawkins Honored as the 2024 South Dakota Teacher of the Year for “Embodying Excellence in Teaching”

George J. Hawkins Honored as the 2024 South Dakota Teacher of the Year for George J. Hawkins, honored as the 2024 South Dakota Teacher of the Year, epitomizes dedication and innovation in education. Hawkins, a seasoned educator with a legal background, is acclaimed for his commitment to project-based learning and his ability to instill a passion for history and government in his students.

“Teaching is much more than content,” Hawkins said in a press release. “Teaching is developing those foundations. That’s really the bedrock of what’s going to create a good classroom.”

Teaching a variety of subjects at Jefferson High School in Sioux Falls, Hawkins engages 11th and 12th graders in courses like American Experience, Advanced Placement (AP) Government and dual credit Government. His classes transcend rote memorization, offering dynamic environments where students actively participate in hands-on projects, deepening their understanding of the subject matter.

Hawkins’ path to teaching is as unique as his classroom approach. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in government and international affairs, he initially pursued a career in law, practicing in Watertown and later in Sioux Falls. However, Hawkins’ passion for education led him to shift careers in 2012, joining New Technology High School, where he played a crucial role in curriculum development and introduced AP Government classes.

His teaching philosophy emphasizes the importance of cultivating essential skills and fostering meaningful connections with students. Hawkins’ innovative methods have garnered praise from colleagues and officials alike. South Dakota Department of Education Secretary Joe Graves lauds Hawkins, describing him as “the embodiment of excellence in teaching,” praising his ability to integrate real-world experiences into lessons.

Hawkins’ recognition as the 2024 South Dakota Teacher of the Year is a testament to his unwavering dedication and innovative approach. As he prepares to represent South Dakota in the National Teacher of the Year competition, Hawkins continues to inspire both students and fellow educators, leaving a lasting impact on education.

Among the award finalists were Caitlyn Graf, Valerie Nelson, Lindsey Bachman and Alyssa Walters, each recognized for their outstanding contributions to education. However, it is George J. Hawkins who proudly carries the title of “2024 South Dakota Teacher of the Year,” embodying excellence and innovation in teaching.

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